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Grey and the New Zealand constitution

Alex Frame writes in, “Building the Constitution” Conference: "A.H. McLintock has given us an indispensable account of the events leading to Sir George Grey’s refusal to implement the Westminster Parliament’s 1846 Constitution for New Zealand and its accompanying Royal Instructions , and of his role in the design of the 1852 replacement document. McLintock refers to the enigmatic Governor’s account of the ‘drafting process’ :
‘...I had visions of a new form of constitution being helpful , far beyond New Zealand. In the end , when my thoughts had bent to a shape , I went up the mountains between Auckland and Wellington , camped on Ruapehu , in a little gipsy tent , and set to the task. A few Maoris accompanied me to carry the baggage ; nobody else , for I could not have drawn the constitution with a cloud of advisers about me.’
Sir George Grey told Milne 50 years after the event :
‘the greatest merit of my constitution , was that the people of New Zealand could alter it at any point , should they desire to do so. That was why it appeared to me unnecessary to ask a number of leading men : did they approve what I was doing ? I aimed at a most liberal constitution , and they could change it to their wishes as time went on.’
Although the link with the 1852 London-enacted Constitution was formally severed by its repeal from 1 January 1987 by the Constitution Act 1986 , the continuity is maintained by express references in the 1986 Act to the unbroken life of the institutions and law-making powers of Parliament. My first point , therefore , is that the structure and content of our Constitution has been pragmatic and provisional from its inception. Two other features of the birth of the 1852 Constitution are worth mentioning in the present context. First , Grey’s ‘hanging up’ of the 1846 package was primarily a result of his opposition to London’s reinterpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi which would have restricted Maori rights to land actually occupied.
Secondly, the 1852 Constitution included a provision permitting the maintenance of Maori custom as between Maori in designated areas."


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